As the spread of the Coronavirus goes on, China, the world's second-biggest economy, has been facing a big crisis of the newly discovered virus, 2019-nCoV. It has been 17 years since the terrifying war to SARS, but it seems little better. And most important, why?
What's going on?
It is still unknown when did the virus comes out of the cage. Some rumor that the first group of patients was reported on December 8, 2019. Same from the source of the rumor, it is saying that doctors perceived these patients as the newly infected people of new SARS-like, unclear-sourced. However, it has not been seen by the public by that time until the drastic spread of the epidemic.
On December 30, 2019, one picture of internal announcement of arrangement and preparation on the ongoing virus from the claimed source of Wuhan CDC, has been leaked on the Chinese internet. And the CDC of Wuhan later had to admit that the announcement is true under the pressure of inquiries. According to Diyicaijing, on December 31, 2019, the market was still under normal operation, and nobody had heard the new virus. With the same reason of announcement, the suspected epicenter and origin of the virus, the Huanan Seafood Market, was closed.
Today, I interviewed one person in Wuhan currently, inquiring about his perceptions and personal experiences during the whole period. He said he was shocked by the news headline of the new unclear-sourced virus as he came back to his home at Wuhan on December 30, 2019. People in his WeChat moment were retweeting constantly about the newly disclosed announcement issued by Wuhan CDC. But, in contrast to the heating responses online to the coronavirus, people seem not willing to take action in reality, not being aware of the necessity of covering their mouths with masks.
And from his description, the city was running under the traditional model of the spring festival, without awareness of the surge of infections ahead anyway. And as we can see from the news, government and communities were continuing to organize different collective activities during the period of January 1, 2020, to January 20, 2020. These activities include gathering people for a feast and holding party and show even if some of the crew members were showing symptoms of infection.
"The whole society went on as if there was nothing happened", he said. While people who were not infected pretended to have nothing heard, the patients, on the other hand, were getting trouble in terms of either reality and virtual. Some of the Chinese Weibo users who were relatives to patients or patients themselves were tweeting that they were facing a shortage of detection and the fact that unable to be treated.
On the other hand, government and other CCP backed institutions were saying that the outbreak was under full control. But ironically, the one who said that was infected after soon. And the People's Daily had no coverage on the ongoing crisis in Wuhan, but full coverage of Mr. Xi's whatever.
"The situation held on until the report of the announcement of Zhong Nanshan, which has shaken the most of the people's confidence because of the confession of the presence of person-to-person transmission.", he said, "no sooner after the news from Zhong Nanshan, I have heard the news of Wuhan lockdown." On that day, he went back to Wuhan from other cities, but he perceived no special regulation or screening in the train station. People in the train station were not getting covered by masks. Luckily, the commodities in Wuhan are currently at the status of full supply according to him.
As the first case of infected patient emerged in Beijing, which is also the first case outside Wuhan, the central government and leader Xi Jinping, got to say the great incentives to beat down whatever epidemics. “Confronted with the grave situation of this accelerating spread of pneumonia from infections with the novel coronavirus, we must step up the centralized and united leadership under the party central” leadership, Mr. Xi said. However, he has never commented on the situation of the Wuhan outbreak after that.
After Xi's significant comment, the whole country got into the status that is supposed to be in Wuhan 40 days before. But it's too late.
Comparing to the goofing off behavior of both central and local governments. Hong Kong government sensed the outbreak before it got truly started up. They set up the screenings in portals and airports. So did Taiwan and Macau. Soon after, Thailand did so. However, for Wuhan, it did not even about 20 days later, which is public outrage.
Despite the big underlying issues, it is great to see that the government does take it faster than what they did 17 years ago.
It's very subjective and complicated to answer such a question. But for me, I think we are taking two faulty moves that eliminating either of which could help.
Long-taken strategy of media censorship and surveillance
It is quite clear that China is taking pressing censorships on either social media and press. It is very important to have wide and great freedom for journalists and press to distribute copies of true stories without any manipulations. Though it is hard to ensure the absence of manipulations, different aspects of arguments and manipulations help us to figure out what the truth is. This is widely accepted by the international community but not by China.
In this case, even if we don't have a fast-mobilizing government behind, the outbreak scale could be reduced if the truth of the discovery of unclear-sourced virus is reported by journalists. By reporting and undercover, there would be no situation in which the whole society was marching towards the lake of epidemics because it was blind. People could be well-informed about the severity of the new disease, but not still be hanging out with no protections every day. Media plays a role in getting rid of ignorance for the citizens in the country. And if we have a bunch of blind, eye-covered or hand-cuffed media, it is clear as it is now of where our country would be led to. The answer is sentenced to death.
Our strategy now, and same for almost every single big tragedy, is to whitewash, trying to gloss over scandals, outrages, faults. For why this is emerging, I don't want to talk about it cause it's out of our today's scope.
Fast-mobilizing and democratic government
I know it's very annoying to be a leader of a democratic society or government cause you will face different arguments against you almost every moment. But what makes you upset helps society progress.
Here I'm not talking about which system is the best to be a democratic one cause I don't think any of the current presented systems is great enough to be a pure democracy.
So why does democracy or being democratic help? Because the government or the executive branch will be sensitive about what is happening and not getting into the deadlock.
And China gets both of two down. Few will deny that China's system is getting trapped by itself because every part is relatively blind. Furthermore, the system is quite unstable because what makes sense is the direction of the supreme leader. Today, he is Mr. Xi. The idea of the whole system gets almost unchanged as it was in Ming or Qing dynasties. One of the obvious drawbacks of this system is that it is quite insensitive. Big events need to undertake a long process to get informed or ready. And second is the deadlock. In Chinese society, people are refrained or afraid to raise your problem or protest cause we are under the great influence of one supreme leader. So under this scenario, people who can perceive have no guts to say. People who can say have no perceptions, or even not want anyone to stand out. Thus, the government falls in deadlock.
But it is also very hard to make it fast-mobilizing under democracy. Cause sometimes arguments itself can cause problems, such as bipartisan issues. Keep in mind to make the government a swift one is also important. One way of keeping this is by getting the executive branch its appropriate power. Put a "supreme leader under control".
So even if there is no freedom of media (most time not likely to be seen in a democratic society), the government can silently get all of the preventions enforced and information informed. But not in a way in which people are gathering together for the festival while the virus is going in surge underlying.
If you are smart, then you may see that one autonomy which is undemocratic, is most likely not giving domestic medias freedom because disclosures always shake regimes. And if you have no freedom for journalists and media, there will also likely be no democracy because people are tamed to give up rights, any bits of them.